Lisa Howard: Why TWILIGHT Cast Welcomed 'Some New Blood' on Vampire Phenomenon
You originated the role of Rona Lisa Peretti in 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.' When it moved to Circle in the Square, was that your Broadway debut?
It was. It was a wonderful show to make my debut in. I felt very fortunate.
What was it like to move from off-Broadway to Broadway so quickly?
Well, actually the whole thing, from the very beginning went very, very quickly. I did one of the workshops when it was being turned into a musical. Originally it was an improv show from 'The Farm", an improv group. And they basically had this small little show based around a spelling bee and they brought in their funny little characters. Sarah Saltzberg was a member of that company, and she was also Wendy Wasserstein's nanny. Wendy came to see the show and said, 'My friend Bill Finn would love this. You should turn it into a musical." So she showed it to Bill Finn and he said yes, and they ended up turning it into a musical.
So I came in at the very beginning when Bill did, and so we did a workshop up at Barrington Stage and that was February of 2004. In the summer, we did a production of it in Great Barrington but it was in a cafeteria, one of the little tiny, tiny theaters, literally it was a kid's cafeteria. And then from there, that fall, we went Off-Broadway and by early in the year we had gone to Broadway. It just never happens that fast. It was crazy, just a whirlwind of, 'oh my gosh, what? We're going to Broadway? what?" A year later, come spring 2005, I'm on the Tony Awards! It was very fast. Not your typical path for a show going to Broadway.
And now I believe it's among the most produced shows by community theaters, regional theaters, high schools.
Yeah, I can see why - minimal set, lots of kid's characters. I mean it's kind of perfect.
Do you find it more challenging to originate a role as you did in that show, or to step into a show that is already in production?
As far as say, going into Priscilla, I would much rather originate a show, create a character or re-create a character but have it be from the beginning of the production. I think it's much harder to just pop into a show. I'd much prefer to go through the whole rehearsal process and all that. It's a lot more work, but it's more rewarding. I had actually been cast in the original company of Priscilla and then ended up having to turn it down because I had knee surgery. So it really came full circle. When the track opened up that I had originally been cast for I went in and was like, 'Oh yay, I get to actually do it!" because I had felt so bad having to turn it down. So it was nice that it came around again.
So what's next for you? Do you have any plans to come back to Broadway or do you want to pursue your film career?
Well, I'm going to pursue both. I'm actually waiting, we're not really sure when it's going to happen, I'm thinking next fall, but I had recently done a show with David Hyde Pierce, he had directed at the George Street Playhouse called 'It Shoulda Been You' with Tyne Daly and Richard Kline and Harriet Harris and Edward Hibbert. So we're waiting for that to happen.
And you recently released your debut album.
Yes, called 'Songs of Innocence and Experience'. It's actually all Williams Finn's music, since I made my debut in a show of his.
Well it sounds like you've got a full plate.
And a two and a half year old, so it's really full!
Oh my gosh, that alone would be enough! Well best of luck with 'Breaking Dawn' and we're looking forward to seeing you back on Broadway real soon!
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski
Character poster courtesy of Summit Entertainment
More On: Lisa Howard, George Street, Playhouse, David Hyde Pierce, Lisa Peretti, The Farm, Sarah Saltzberg, Wendy Wasserstein, Bill Finn,